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Thrive is set up by Funding London, a venture capital company bridging the finance gap for early stage businesses based in London. With over a decade’s experience in supporting the startups of London through a variety of funding vehicles, Funding London sensed a need to illuminate the ever-evolving scenario of London’s early stage businesses.

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Perceptions · 1 February '21

Looking forward – what can we expect from tech in 2021

2020 will forever be remembered as an incredibly challenging year for millions of businesses across every industry. However, despite popular opinion, it wasn’t all bad news. A year of uncertainty and widespread disruption lead to the hyper adoption of technology. Digital transformation has been absolutely key for countless businesses, resulting in wider adoption of new technologies allowing businesses to become more agile and flexible than ever before. This has proved crucial to business survival. Looking to the future,  here are some key trends that will likely shape tech in 2021.

Investment in enterprise software

Agility and flexibility have become the ultimate goal for businesses looking to survive the pandemic. As the UK settles into its third lockdown within a year, companies are increasingly relying on digital technologies to manage disruption and adapt to changing customer demands. As a result, we can expect businesses to increase investment in enterprise software, as Gartner predicts that global enterprise software spend is to reach $556 billion in 2021. Increased investment in enterprise software will enable companies to adopt the necessary technologies, ultimately enabling businesses to compete within an increasingly competitive and uncertain environment.

As adoption of tech increases, demand for highly skilled workers will therefore also continue to rise. It’s likely then we can expect continued investment in reskilling talent, as significant skills gaps start to emerge. The UK Government has already taken steps to close skills gaps through various programmes such as the Lifetime Skills Guarantee programme which aims to transform the training and skills system in the UK, as 64% of managers believe employees are unable to keep pace with future skill needs. However, whilst schemes like this are promising first steps to closing the skills gap, they don’t offer an immediate solution. Retraining and upskilling can’t be done overnight – and it requires investment from both the employee and employer. To address skill gaps immediately, many organisations have turned to low code solutions. These enable employees with little technical background to implement apps and services with little to no training. It is predicted that by 2024 74% of organisations will be using at least four low-code development tools for app development and citizen developer initiatives.

Rise of hyper automation

As investment in enterprise software rises, one area we can expect significant investment in, is hyper automation. This key area improves a company’s efficiency and productivity whilst making the business more resilient to change. Hyper automation is the process of implementing and combining technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation not only for virtually any repetitive task, but also for complex business processes.

This is now essential for achieving both digital operational excellence and operational resilience within organisations. Organisations can increase efficiency and productivity whilst making their employees and customers’ lives easier. However, one area often forgotten in the world of hyper automation is software testing. Test automation, which enables the automated testing of any software, is now becoming increasingly essential in our digital first world. As companies start implementing tech across their organisations, the possibilities for glitches and bugs increases. Whilst testing can be done manually, software testing teams are under an immense amount of pressure as they deal with shortening time windows and increasingly interconnected and complex technology environments. As organisations move from monthly or weekly releases to releasing by the hour or minute, intelligent test automation is critical to keeping pace. Through automated testing, businesses are able to address tech glitches before they become business problems, and increase speed delivery without compromising on quality. If companies fail to test there can be long lasting issues and consequences. For example, Slack, a leading business communication platform crashed earlier this month on the first day back from winter holiday for many office workers around the world. This instant access economy means patience for outages and other performance issues just isn’t there – especially as so many of us are relying on instant messaging apps to maintain team connectivity and workflow. Companies need fast and reliable testing to roll out changes at speed and ensure they work or risk losing customers to competition.

Software as a critical network

Currently, there are 13 sectors recognised as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) in the UK, ranging from Communications, Defence and Chemicals to Transport and Water. However, as the UK increasingly becomes digitised and reliant on technology, we can expect an increasing recognition of networked software as a CNI. As lockdowns become the norm, communications and connectivity have been in high demand, as people rely on telecom services to work from home and virtually get in contact with others. Whilst communications is already recognised as a CNI, communications providers rely heavily on software providers to keep people connected. However, communications is not the only sector affected by this. Businesses across the UK now depend on increasingly complex software networks to keep their organisations not just running but running seamlessly. Ensuring that this software functions flawlessly is now critical.

Conclusion

2020 forced technology to evolve at lightning speed. This means 2021 has a tough act to follow but looks likely to deliver. Digitisation, hyper-automation and improved software will become the norm and a much-needed panacea for this period of uncertainty, providing businesses with the capability and flexibility to not only survive, but thrive.  Increased investment in digitalisation, in particular, hyper-automation will be a key focus for businesses, and as a result, we can expect rapidly increasing demand for individuals with the necessary skills to meet changing requirements and expectations. This increased dependency on software and technology will lead to  a greater importance placed on ensuring this software works flawlessly.